Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

The Halloween party at GSMD was actually last Friday, but it took me this long to get my camera recharged and upload the pictures, so close enough. Here we've got Meredith and me. Meredith was a Greek Goddess and made her headdress herself with Christmas items from Waitrose grocery store, and I have on a lot of purple eyeshadow. Which means I'm a witch. (It was an easy costume to do)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

back to our previously scheduled programming

So I don't know if it has become clear yet that we have been learning a *bunch* and that it can be both overwhelming and exhausting at times- but if that hasn't become clear let me just state that yes- it is overwhelming and exhausting (in a good way, of course).

Anyhow, my way of turning off my brain has been to get deeply involved with a British television show called "Green Wing." Patrick, my flat mate, owns the first season on DVD so I borrowed that from him- got minorly obsessed, and checked out the rest of it from the Barbican library.

It is loosely a hospital comedy/drama- but there aren't any medical story lines (which makes it different from every American hospital show I know of). It follows both the doctors and the HR department and is more than a little surreal (one character frequently shows up in a giant squirrel costume). They filmed in real hospitals with regular doctors and patients around which gives it a *very* realistic look but also must have been bizarre to be around.

The most fascinating part of getting minorly obsessed with this show is that a bunch of it is improvised which means that I have begun analyzing various scenes to see if I can deconstruct what they are doing.

At least half of the cast has adopted very specific body gestures for their characters: specific postures, idiosyncratic walks, and various facial expressions that there is *no way* they use in real life. The improvised scenes are informative to watch because of how they use white space and their timing (comedic and otherwise). I'm trying to figure out how much can be immediately translated into music and how much is specific to acting.

Anyhow, the point of all of this is that my carefully horded "turn off my brain" time has turned in to more fuel for thinking about my programme and therefore defeated it's purpose. Or served it completely, I'm not sure which.

Oh, the other neat thing is that, being a British TV show, it is full of British actors who do a lot of theatre and I live in London where there is a lot of theatre- so I'm hoping that over the next two years I'll get to see some of them in shows. I'm keeping an eye on various websites-specifically Michelle Gomez's. She plays 'Sue White' who is the character who keeps ending up as a squirrel. And at one point gives birth to a lion cub...did I mention that it is a surreal show? Because it totally is.

A good question:

I got this email today from Andy, they're all good questions so I thought I would reproduce the email in whole and then answer it to the best of my understanding. So here goes:

Hi Casey,

As a long-time reader of your blog, I have a question that perhaps you could address in an upcoming issue.

What is a workshop?

I hear you talk about workshops. I have the impression they are

1) Maybe directed at children, but often adults.

The workshops I have been involved in thus far have all been with secondary schools (high schools) but yes, they can be with anyone. Workshops that I have heard about have included ones in prisons, with the London Symphony Orchestra, pediatric wards in hospitals, an Islamic Centre, etc.

2) Short-term in nature, often only one session – so you are leading strangers.

Yes, but again the ones I have been involved with have been few. Mine have lasted anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days. We are working in January on something called "The Globetown project" which involves (I think) three secondary schools and a couple of primary schools and will last the entire term. So some are quite long term indeed. If they are long then I have noticed that they tend to get termed "project" rather than "workshop." Tara is hoping to use the skills she learns in this programme with her regular teaching which would make it, in effect, a year long project/workshop. Kinda.

3) Often participants are only casual musicians, or perhaps not musicians at all.

Yup, though not at all necessarily. I think eventually you figure out what sort of participants you enjoy working with the most and then do that- be it experienced musicians or people who aren't entirely clear on what a beat is.

4) The goal is to foster the participants’ creativity, rather than teach some specific content.

Yes, though of course there are exceptions. In the Globetown project there is a massive performance at the end where the pieces that have been written over the course of the project will be played so we'll most likely be specifically teaching them opening riffs as a basis for their composition, but in contrast to the aims of Eurhythmics- there isn't usually specific musical content to be taught- like "how do you play two against three?" or "how do you hear the difference between a major and minor third" Though especially in a longer term sort of project that may be something that you want to bring up. I'm constantly thinking of things in terms of eurhythmics and it ends up confusing me a bit because I keep thinking that everything should be aimed towards teaching a specific musical element.

5) The goal is not necessarily to get impressive musical results, it may be team-building or self-esteem.

Absolutely, especially if you're doing a workshop in a corporate environment. The other group at Aldeburgh went to a school that had a music programme, but no sort of ensembles so their workshop was the first time that the students had been able to play together- it was apparently pretty phenomenal to watch the transformation of the group- so definite team building there.

Am I on the right track?

I think I can safely say "absolutely" and "thanks for asking these questions."

Where is the demand for these workshops? Schools? Hospitals? Businesses? Community groups? Why don’t those places have ongoing music education rather than one-time visiting workshops?

I have no idea. Almost all of our tutors are active workshop leaders and there are a lot of them, but I have no idea about the lay of the land in this case. For the schools I think it is often a special treat, sort of like a field trip- for everyone else? No clue.

Do participants typically choose to participate and pay fees, or is the workshop part of an institutional program (such as a school/hospital/retirement home)?

It depends, the first workshop that I participated in right before my audition was a "professional development workshop" for teachers and the like and that was fee based, but the secondary schools that we went into it would be just an event for the students.

Are these workshops a common thing in Europe ? In America ?

I think they are quite common in England (and Iceland) and wherever graduates from this programme have ended up, but they are definitely next to non-existent in America. Jeff Sharkey (Peabody's new director) chose to go to Peabody instead of Cleveland Institute of Music because he feels like Peabody is better set up to start something like this.

Are they a new idea? Are workshops a substitute for school music programs that are now being discontinued?

An emerging idea, certainly. I hope they're not a substitute for school programs- more of an enrichment activity: 'here is how to do something musical in an incredibly different way from what you're used to experiencing' sort of thing.

What is the difference between a “workshop leadership” major and a “music therapy” major? I know a music therapist, she plays harp at a hospice – If I was in a hospice, I would be happy to have her come visit.

There are definitely overlaps- but I think the most important difference is that music therapists have training in psychology and medicine whereas we don't.

I am familiar with workshops in Appalachian vocal harmony, mandolin/guitar, and songwriting, both at Old Town School and elsewhere (e.g. adult summer camps). Are these in the same category, or something different?

They could be in the same category- I think it depends on how they're taught. Again, I've only been involved in three workshops so far and they have all been led to some degree by the same people (Paul and Sig) so I know that there is a wide variety in what counts as a "workshop" in terms of GSMD's leadership programme and I really just don't have the experience yet to know what more that encompasses. I think it is safe to say that they all involved accessing creativity in a somewhat unusual way and are (very) unlikely to be about something specific- like learning to play an instrument or forming a bluegrass band- though they could I suppose be about improvising in a certain style or arranging depending on whatever instrumentation shows up that day.

Love, Andy

love, CASEY

Sunday, October 28, 2007

You poor people, having to wait so long...


It's been a few days. Sorry.

We've finally had all of our classes though- Thursday evening was "creative ensemble" and Friday was "creative skills." Don't those names tell you *so* much about what we do?

Since they don't, I will.

Creative ensemble is an opportunity for us to all play together and work on pieces for longer than an hour, with the possibility of eventually performing them. Usually when we are composing either as a group or individually or working off of each other's riffs or improvising we don't get much of a chance to really develop any of the material and see where it could go- what sort of orchestration we'd like and all that. So "creative ensemble" is a space and time to do that with. Nell Catchpole is the tutor for that, and she had to be on her toes with us because Heather was in America, Tara was at a concert or something (so both of the cellists were gone), and then Kate didn't bring her oboe and instead brought a small accordion, a glockenspiel, and a melodica; so Nell had nothing like the instrumentation she was expecting and had to changer plans pretty significantly. It went well, though since it was just the first session it felt a lot like everything else that we've been doing- I'm sure it will develop more as the year goes on.

Creative Skills is a sort of practice room for leading workshops. (Why is it called creative skills? I dunno.) We're learning warm up exercises and songs and then practicing them with each other. The class is scheduled from 10am to 5pm, but we shoved lunch in there and a couple of breaks as well because that is just far too long to be stuck in a small windowless room with 10 other people. This week we broke up into pairs and made up a body rhythm to teach and use as a basis for various exercises. We also had a discussion about what warm up exercises are for and why we do them. Want a recap? Here is what I can remember without my notes:

Warm ups are good for:
managing energy levels (bringing up and/or down as appropriate)
focusing the group
getting everyone to something silly so they relax
teaching rhythmic and melodic material
ensemble skills (listening, paying attention to others)
introducing improvisation
physically warming up the body and/or voice
setting the tone for the workshop
figuring out individuals' levels without "auditioning"
assessing the musical level of the group

The best pair, in my opinion, were Caroline and Jorge. They had a rhythm in 4/4 that began with a jump, moved up through the body, and had pitches associated with it. The jump was really useful because it meant that you had to prepare for the next cycle ahead of time- the same way that you have to breathe before a phrase and prepare that. (You have to prepare all movements, but the jump was particularly useful because if you don't *really* prepare and think ahead there is no way you are getting off of the ground.) They eventually had us in a circle jumping to the left and to the right in this little dance that had all of us laughing and sweating- it was pretty great. The singing was great because it reinforced the body rhythm and and vice versa. You could then use that melody as the starting point of a piece once the workshop got to instruments. I also really liked that it moved upward from the ground- we jumped first, slapped our thighs, snapped twice and I think there may have been a clap- I don't remember; but leading up from the feet really grounded the pattern and made it comfortable and natural to do.

I need a little video of this, it is hard to explain...but this is what they're eventually going to give me a degree in...

Friday was the college Halloween party. Apparently in the UK Halloween costumes are always something scary- vampire, witch, devil, monster, etc. So Meredith and I tried to disabuse our British friends of this notion. Meredith was a Greek goddess (she had an extra bed sheet and made an impressive toga. Though it was a good thing I had some safety pins.) And talked about our favorite costumes ever like when I was a pineapple in 8th grade and also the kid in elementary school who was a milk carton. The Brits think we're crazy, but for once this is something that Americans have done for a longer time than they have. (the implication being, of course, that we're right and therefore the winners. Not that everything is a competition...) The party ended up being pretty lame until the very end when the dj got everyone dancing to Thriller and Don't Stop me Now (what does Queen have to do with Halloween? I understand Thriller, but Queen?) which was pretty great because everyone was singing along and standing in a very wonky "circle."

On Saturday I finally visited Peter McCarthy! Took me long enough, I know. We went to this totally awesome Turkish grocery store to pick up a few thing for lunch, but I think I'm going to go back just for the spices, and the vegetables, and the pint of hummus for £2. We had a really good chat back at his home and he ended up loaning me a bunch of unaccompanied bass solos that I'm going to look through because I miss actually working on something. So that was totally cool. He has a garden out back where he feeds all the local wildlife, so there were a bunch of sparrows and he apparently has three hedgehogs though I didn't see any. No squirrels though.

So there you go, and update! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More stuff I've done

I have a bank account! It is with NatWest and I feel like I got quite good service and personal attention during the set up process.

I have a new mattress! Which is *so* much better than the old one, which is now sitting outside in the rain next to the dumpster in the courtyard.

I have an interview with a temp agency! On Monday. They were reccomended to me by Caroline who is in my programme. We'll see how it goes.

I have a mobile phone! But all of the ring tones drag, which makes them painful to listen to. Which I guess in a perverse way is good incentive to pick up the phone when it is ringing or get out of bed if I'm using it as an alarm clock.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spelling errors

I would like everyone to know that I have been using spell check, but for some reason it isn't actually changing the words that I click on. So I *do* in fact know how to spell "necessarily" and "surprise" and maybe some day I'll go back and make sure that the previous entry is error free. But I'm not making any promises.

Another first day of classes?

Oh! I'm getting behind- I still haven't told you what we did the rest of the week at Aldeburgh, nor have I done any of the profiles (though those of you who've ventured over to flickr will notice that I did do little one line profiles of everyone. Those of you stuck in blogger land with just have to wait a little longer.) And I'm not going to do it now because today was our first day of classes, again. Well, the first day of these classes and we met two new tutors and I'm exhausted and haven't been home yet so this will be quick (yeah right.)

We started the day with Nathan who is a jazz bassist and our improvisation tutor. His bass is an older flat back and reminded me of bassey-bye so now I miss her. But whatever- it was awesome. We started with free improvisation which sounded like an orchestra tuning and was ridiculous. We tried again with the instructions to "listen" and "play less." Unsurprisingly that helped.

The next thing we did was set up a groove by having everyone play any note they wanted on two separate beats of an 8 beat cycle. (So: count to 8. I played an F on every 4 and an A on every 5) Then we put in off beats (I was classical here, I just added a G on the + of 4) (Is anyone following this other than Andy?)

Once that was solid and grooving along we soloed over the top of it. But when it *really* got cool is when Nathan got out a Norwegian Folk tune (Gula Gula) and we soloed over the chord progresions from that because then it sounded like real music and it was so great because as long as you stayed in B aeolian mode (let it be, I know this makes no sense) it sounded good.

When it was my turn my mind just emptied and I fiddled around and was having the time of my life and even though I had four choruses to play over it went by super quickly and I was suprised when it was over. About half of us had that experience with soloing and the other half was like "argh! it was never ending!" For me it means that I now understand really self indulgent, terribly boring jazz solos that go on for 20 minutes longer than the 30 seconds they should have lasted. It's super super fun! Well, for the player. Not so much for the audience neccessarily.

Right, so then I took over the walking bass line for the second time around the circle. The bass line was written out and Nathan had been playing it before, but I wanted to see what would happen if I really got the chord structure in my ears. The problem was that the song is half in 5/8 time and half in 3/4 time and no one was being very consistent in how they were counting it or accenting it so it was difficult to keep in time. So the second soloing experience was much different for me. I still wasn't conciously thinking about what the chords were but I was much more cautious because I had that structure in my ear and I was having trouble having my fingers match what I was hearing.

So that was the first three hours of the day, then we had an hour lunch where I made spaghetti and washed dishes and then ran back to Guildhall for "Percussion Skills" Which was an entirely different beast.

Nigel is an amazingly talented drummer, but maybe not the clearest teacher. This class was also three hours long and I think it will end up being one of those things where you pick up as much as you can and just don't expect to actually understand everything until much much later when it suddenly makes sense in light of everything else you've learned. Sort of like reading Derrida: don't try actually deciphering each sentenc- get to the end of the paragraph/page/chapter/treatise and then figure out what it was that just washed over you.

Anyhow- by the end of percussion skillz my hands were itchy they way they get when it has been very cold and they're starting to warm up again. I think I may have been thwacking things too hard.

So now I'm going to go eat dinner, because it has been a long day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Guess what I did on Sunday?

Latana and Vanessa (french flat mate, canadian friend) are trying to get singing jobs at this big presbyterian church by the Knightsbridge tube stop, so I went with them this week.

It was really neat: they sang good hymns, the church is Scottish so there was lots of fun accent time, and they had a £1.80 lunch afterwards which was quite tasty, and they were super friendly. We ended up spending a lot of time talking to Camille who is the associate pastor and from Minnesota and I ended up spending over an hour talking to Ben; and elder from some town right near Aldeburgh that I can't remember the name of. He was the chatty type.

After that I decided to go exploring and ended up at Harvey Nichols which was a creepy experience. All of the clothes were over £500 (I started walking through it like a museum, with my hands in my pockets so as to not touch anything and accidentaly ruin the specimins.) and at their new fifth floor food section the signs they had to indicate what was in the aisle (i.e., organic non pasturized cheeses or fancy schmancy chocolates) were all of naked women adorned in whatever food was in that aisle. So I'm not really in any hurry to go back there. Though I will say that their shop windows were super cool: they had manniquins with dresses made out of different foods- my favorite was a flouncy one made from baguettes, small bagels, crackers, and wheat fronds. (Okay, I know "wheat fronds" is a weird name, but what are they called?)

Then I walked all the way back to Sundial Court so by Buckingham Palace (which looks like a giant bank, the halls of justice on Fleet street are waaaay cooler), through Trefalger Square and then down Strand Street and Fleet street to St. Pauls. It was a very nice day.

Guess what I did today?

I checked out a couple of banks and I got a mobile phone! It isn't charged yet, but I will email the "Family" list the number as soon as it is (and activated). It is a hideously ugly shiny red/flourescent pink thing but had the benefit of being only £10 and a flip phone (which I prefer to um, non flip phones.)

Also: I talked to the facilites office and got stuff taken care of there (like they're going to check out my horrible horrible mattress and see if it can be replaced) and I've done a bunch of emailing and scheduling that I've put off.

So basically what I'm saying is that I'm super cool and ace at getting stuff done.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More stuff coming later

It always is, but for now if you're interested I uploaded a bunch of pictures from the Aldeburgh trip onto flickr. You can find me at

I'll make that an actual link if someone will tell me how, but for the time being, just copy and paste.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

skipping around in time

Mostly I feel like telling you about Friday night once we got back to Guildhall. The rest will be filled in later, but we are either *really* dorky or super super cool because after we unloaded all the equipment and put the flight case back and all that Emma, Kate, Nick, Latana, and I went to the Basement pub and proceeded to spent the next four hours deconstructing every song that came on and doing body rhythms for the percussion, singing the bass lines, calling out the guitar chords, or making up descants to go on top of everything. It was pretty rad, in a really really dorky way.


We were all supposed to be at Guildhall by 9am in order to pack up the vans and get on the road, but the tubes were delayed and then the vans didn't show up for forever because they were told that they didn't even need to leave the dispatch area until 9:30. So we hung around the front of the school for a while talking about how it was so amazing that we were all actually awake and there.

When the vans arrived and we started loading I realized that the bass was going to be in the same van as the amplifiers and other heavy unyielding things so Clare Catchpole and I went on a hunt for a bass case. The flight case made me feel much more comfortable about the transport aspect of the trip, but also proved to be a pain in the neck because it was, after all, seven feet tall and over 100lbs. So everything was loaded, we got everyone divided up in to which vehicle they were meant to be in and then Caroline and Jo learned how to drive large, limited visibility vans through central London. Everyone else fell asleep.

The drive to Aldeburgh (ald-brr-uh) took about 3 hours, the highlight of which was when the song that we learned during induction week came on the radio. None of us had realized that it was a commercial song. When it started Nick and I turned to each other and talked about how it sounded exactly like...(wow this story would work better if I actually remembered what the song was called) then the words started and we all sang along in harmony and texted the people in the other van so that they could hear it too. It was pretty great.

When we got to the Britten-Pears school we unloaded everything and ate lunch at a local cafe and then got down to business- namely circle games and warming up. Sigrun led some quite complicated rhythms and then divided us into three groups and had us pass the rhythms around the circle. So we were each doing one complicated rhythm, watching the complicated rhythm next to us that then screwed up our current rhythm and waiting for Sig to say "switch" so that we could subtly change the next rhythm because we never quite got it while the group to our left was playing it.

These are body rhythms by the way, which means that we were all smacking ourselves repeatedly and most of us ended up with red spots on our chests and sore thighs.

What else did we do on Monday? I think that was the day we learned "Simba" which is a song from somewhere in Africa with three parts that layer (and maybe I should take better notes.) And also learned the material that Paul had written for the first school workshop on Tuesday. I'm getting better at learning things by ear- it helps that a lot of what we have been playing and singing has been riff based so that the segment that I have to hear and then play is not as long as it could be and is usually diatonic (in the key).

We were meant to have fish and chips that night when we got to Orlando House (our house had a name, it is "Orlando") but the shop was closed so the first dinner team (Tara, Heather, and myself) made Mushroom risotto and a big salad and it was lovely.

Eventually we went to sleep. Monday was a long time ago, that is as much as I remember.

Content?! You people want content?! Whatever.

So. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is privy to what is going on in my head and therfore have no idea what I'm talking about. Sorry.

The first year leadership students spent the last week living in Aldeburgh in Suffolk on the East Coast of London and working at the Britten-Pears center nearby. We participated in our first workshop as support people on Tuesday and on Friday split in to two groups and led our first workshops in Ipswich area schools. The rest of the time was spent developing material, playing improvisation games, and generally bonding a lot.

Pictures, as I said, will be forthcoming.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I'll start with the house. I'm sitting in the first floor sitting room right now waiting for Paul and Sig to come back from the fish and chip shop with the orders. I'm borrowing Nick's computer which fortunately has both Mexican AND American settings so I don't have to figure out where the @ sign is all the time. It's nice. What I'm about to type is a description of the house and general introduction to this week. Mostly everything has been amazing and overwhelming and man oh man is this going to take a bunch of entries to cover. So please bear with me, don't worry if you don't recognize names or remember who everyone is- there will be profiles coming soon (I've got pictures ready and everyhing.) So with no further ado, here's what I've got so far:

This house is amazing, beautiful and filled with random unique bedrooms. I'm up on the 3rd floor in the old nursery beceause I liked that the room has random carpeted stairs that lead nowhere. Across the hall is a room with two bunkbeds where Kate, Tara, Jorge, and Nick are all staying. The first night they kept me awake with all their giggling.

The second floor has Heather in a giant master bedroom with ensuite bathroom. The window looks out on to the sea- the rest of us were creeped out by all of the dark open space, but she loves the room and in daylight it is quite lovely. However we are rarely at the house in the daylight. Sigrun, Paul and heir 3.5 year old son Rhys are on that level too. (Right now Nick is playing a very loud version of Hide and Seek with a very giggly Rhys. "Is he in the bottle?!" "No! giggle giggle")

The first floor has small bedrooms where Emma, Jo, and Caroline are all staying as well as a large sitting room with cushy couches, a large TV, and a window seat facing the ocean.

The ground floor is where we spend most of our time in the house- specifically in the kitchen. There are five rooms on the ground floor- a front sitting room, a dinning room we haven't really used except for a masive note sharing session where we all tried to remember what we had learened this week, a half bath, a laundry room, and the kitchen. The lovely, lovely kitchen.

The kitchen has a giant gas Aga, tons of cupboards, and a massive table with built in bench that we squeeze in to. We all sit around the table and chop vegetables and drink wine in an extended dinner party that has lasted all week. Everyone has been really good about chipping in with the cooking, the set up, and the clean up. We've had different teams of people making supper each night. The first night we made a mushroom risotto and a giant salad that was so good that everyone got competitive and tried to one up the night before's dinner. We've been eating well. And a lot- the amount of food that 12 people go through is just phenomenal. I think the crowning glory is a 3 gallon trifle that took 2 days to make and we're going to eat tonight after the fish and chips. (We've been very healthy so far- lots and lots of vegetables. But I think we're making up for it all tonight.)

Continuing on with the house- the door bell is this horrible awful out of tune version of Beethoven's "ode to joy" that gets steadily flatter as it plays. Everyone winces when the doorbell is rung, which is frequently because there is only one house key and if you're in a charming Suffolk cottage by the sea you have to take walks. We're about 20 feet from the ocean, and I have to tell you that part of the reason we all hang out in the kitchen so much is because the Aga is there and it is the only place where it is remotely warm. My windows are fogged up every morning with condensation.

Oh, and the bathroom! There are a bunch of bathrooms and really there is no reason for five of us to be sharing one, but we accidentally set it up that way so whatever. The important part is that it is a bath with a shower head, so I've had practice with my first ever sit down shower- which still has enough novelty to be amusing but I'm pretty sure would get old quickly.

("This time we have to find a new hiding place, Rhys" -Heather. I guess he's been going to the same place each time. Now Nick is a giant and going to eat Rhys. It's fun having a 3.5 year old in the house. He's such a happy good kid, but more on him later when I do the profiles. For now I'm going to go back down stairs and join everyone else.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

First day of school pictures

These were taken on enrollment day because I figured that was as close to a first day of school as I was going to get. So here you go, don't I look bright eyed and bushy tailed?

Even more pictures!!!

Gosh you guys are lucky- so many new blog entries in one day!
Here we've got Ed and Dave (sweater- Ed, Purple shirt- Dave) who are composers from Cambridge. We've got Moises and Meredith again. Sarah is the girl clapping her hands, she's the violinist from Oberlin and Rita is the one in red. She actually goes to the Royal Academy but she's flat mates with Sarah and we think she's keen so she comes along as well. (To be fair she also hosted the first dinner so there's that too.)


The big tall Spaniard- that's Moises. His eyes don't normally bug out that much. The one with all the hair- that's Latana. She's not keen on having her picture taken. The other one- that's Meredith. She's more than okay with having her picture taken. She's holding a cilantro/corriander plant that subsequently died. Her miniature lemon tree is quite happy though, so alls well that ends well. A question you might have is "where's Patrick?" and I would say "Wow, good job remembering my fourth flat mate!" and then would explain that sadly I have yet to take a picture of him as my camera tends to come out during dinner parties and he hasn't come to one yet.

We're testing something:

Since I don't have an internet connection in my room, I'm hoping to be able to import blog entries from Word whenever I do end up getting this computer online. So this is the first one, we'll see if it, looks like it lost all of the formatting- but the text is there at least...

Okay, go:

My flat had another dinner club thingy on Wednesday and I made eggplant pasta sauce from Mommy’s cookbook. It was nice to finally get to cook something substantial and then also to feed a bunch of people. The highlight though was when Rita, who is a violinist from Italy, told me that it was good. Because think about that- an Italian told me my pasta sauce was good! So I was pretty psyched about that.

On Thursday Emma, one of the people in my programme, came over for a bass lesson. I am trading bass lessons with her in exchange for help with the electronic media class that I am planning on taking as she already has an undergraduate degree in electronic music. I’ve never started anyone off on the bass before, the people that I’ve taught or helped to practice or whatever have always had some sort of background already so it was an interesting challenge to figure out how to explain things and even where to start.

As it happened, I ended up getting excited about telling her what little of the history of the Double Bass I know explaining about how the bass is the sort of bastard child of the Viola da Gamba family and the violin family*. I told her what all of the parts of the bass and bow are called and then tried to explain ½ and 1st position to her so that we could start playing something. Then I realized that maybe I should have told her how to hold the bass, so we went back and did that. It was fascinating to realize where my technique differs from what I know I’m supposed to be doing. For instance my left thumb is supposed to be bent. Something to do with a curve being stronger than a straight line, but mine is definitely flat. In my defense I don’t grip the bass so mostly my thumb is just resting there and I think the key thing is really to make sure that your hand isn’t super tense, but still. I don’t think I ended up being terribly clear in my directions to Emma, I hope she was able to follow a bit anyway.

Then we picked up the bow and I kept jostling her arm around to loosen it up while she was playing because she was getting a very anemic sound and the best thing about bass playing is getting a huge fundamental sound with the bow- particularly on the low strings. So she eventually loosened up and ended up getting a remarkably good sound. She has a straight bow, when she isn’t cutting off the weight at her shoulder she moves from her back (something I’ve always struggled with) and we even talked about bow speed and how the higher a note is the more speed you need and vice versa. So all of that took an hour and we’re going to try keeping up with the lessons. I wonder what I should teach her next… it is nice to have a guinea pig.

After the lesson we both went to Pete Churchill’s jazz choir which was awesome. He teaches songs by ear and I’m sitting in the alto section which is good for me because it means that I have to really listen and then also sing harmony instead of the melody which is harder to hear. So not only is the choir totally fun, I’m also working on my ear. Which is always a good thing. This week he broke with tradition and gave us some written music. He has written a couple of arrangements for brass band and choir that we may end up performing later in the year. An arrangement of Danny Boy and then one that combines The Water is Wide and Shenandoah. Pete is a jazzer so there are some crazy harmonies going on and a lot of them are completely dependent on the alto voice. Meaning that everyone else is fairly diatonic (in the scale) and easy to hear/follow and the alto voice is doing crazy color tones that absolutely make the chord- but are *really* hard to find/hear. (It’s good for me, it’s good for me…)

*Characteristics belonging to the violin family: tuned in 5ths, violin corners (corners that jut out), rounded back, sound post, 4 strings, rounded shoulders. Characteristics belonging to the gamba family: tuned in 4ths, gamba corners (corners that meet neatly), flat back, no sound post, 6 or 7 strings, sloped shoulders. What Double Basses have: tuned in 4ths, either type of corners, either flat or curved back, sound post, 4 strings, sloped shoulders.

Monday, October 8, 2007

...and there's more

So I realize that I never did resolve those cliff hangers and also I realize that there are all *sorts* of things that I have been forgetting to tell you about; so here is an attempt to remedy that:

Dinner in Highgate-
Sarah is a very nice girl from Oberlin who plays the violin. She and my flat mate Meredith met at the international students meeting and Sarah invited us to dinner. (Very nice of her to include me even though I wasn't there.) So Meredith and I hopped on the tube and trekked out to Highgate where we promptly got lost. Fortunately for us mobile phones exist and A-Z's are sold in convenience stores. About an hour after we were supposed to be there we finally arrived at Sarah's flat which is the top floor of a house belonging to a violin teacher and a bassoonist. She lives up there with four other violinists, which sounds crowded- but Sarah's room at least was very spacious and open. She had made vegetarian sushi which we gobbled down and then followed with oranges and tea. The group ended up being Sarah, Me, Meredith, Rita (Violin, Italy), and Dave (Composition, Nottingham) we ended up talking about politics which was fascinating with that particular mix of people and nationalities.

We've ended up forming a bit of a dinner club which has so far also included curry and has expanded to include Latana and Ed (Composition, Cambridge) and maybe Cat (Recorder, Oxford). We'll see how long it lasts.

Oh, speaking of food: I've volunteered to make something for International students/food day in November. So no rush, but can you think of any particularly American, vegetarian finger food type of thing?

On to the next- Silent Disco:
Silent disco was one of the Freshers week activites that I was planning on skipping. Fortunately Latana convinced me that I really should go, so I did. A silent disco involves wireless headphones and at least two DJ's and whole bunch of people bopping around silently (or, alternatively, singing along to a song that only they can hear.)It was a lot of fun and being the music dorks we are; we started playing a game wherein you try to guess which channel the other person was listening to based on what beat they were bopping along to. It was totally goofy and great- but hope they find a good way of cleaning the headphones because they got very sweaty and gross.

Have I mentioned that Latana is a truely amazing dancer? Because she really is- and she really loves it which is great because that means that she drags me along, but it is a little intimidating to dance near her because she is so, so very good. We went to the final night of the freshers week activites too which was great because there was a live band: Pandora's Jukebox (great name, huh?) made up of Guildhall students. They were awsome and were doing lots of jazzed up energetic versions of things like N*Sync and Destiny's Child and other poppy dance tunes.

Induction Concert:
This is the most substantial thing I have done so far. Each post-graduate department had a 10 minute slot to fill at the concert. The composition students were paired with the pianists and they had 24hours to write a new piece and then perform it. The strings did a movement from a Beethoven quartet, the brass dept. had a quintet playing Holborn consort pieces (I started hiccuping during this and didn't stop until halfway through the winds when the singer seated next to me gave me a sip of water. It was horribly embarrassing), the winds did a Strauss chamber piece with an overly enthusiastic conductor, the voice department sang a vocal version of Bolero (which was hilarious) and had a sing along for the Hallelujah chorus, and the Opera department did a scene from Die Fledermaus which was also hilarious.

For the part that I participated in they combined the Jazz, Music Therapy, and Leadership departments all together for a pair of West African tunes that we learned by ear and then arranged ourselves (sort of, there was a lot of assistance, but still) It was very confidence building in terms of my estimation of whether or not I can learn by ear- so for that reason alone I'm grateful. It was also fantastic to be grouped together with the other departments because now we have a larger group of people that we know we can work with.

When we performed we also sang another song with various harmonies. It had been taught to all the postgrads and since we all learned it by ear (and because it is very catchy) we have all been singing it ever since. Irritating? Yes! (And also a little bit great because after our group was done playing we segued directly into the song and the whole auditoreum burst into song. Burt in to harmony. It was a bit like living in a musical which is kind of what I have always wanted to do.)

So there you go. That is what I have been doing and I *think* now you are all caught up. Or at least, close enough.

Repetitive Conversations

One of the really lovely things about living in London and going to Guildhall in particular is that there are so many international people around. It's really neat, and I've been having a ball meeting new people and talking to them. However, the conversation inevitably degenerates into this:

"Oo! How do you say this word?!"

Which really can be fun at times- like last night when my flat mates and I were all congregated in the kitchen. You have to remember that Patrick is an actor and therfore is madly in love with accents. So he was speaking French to Latana (who was getting more and more mixed up because it really isn't fair to switch languages back and forth like that on a person)and Moises was following mostly and I was sitting there going "Matin! I know that from Frere Jaques! It's, like, morning, right?" So then Patrick moved on to his NYC Queens accent, which is remarkably good- so I had to teach him Southern Californian Valley Girl. Then general mocking of American accents began and we started writing words out phonetically to see how they are different. Have you ever noticed that City is pronounced sih-dee? I hadn't until it was pointed out to me.

Anyhow, we have decided to watch Pan's Labyrinth later this week as a flat because we all want to see it and it is in Spanish, so Moises won't get confused.

My first real class is tomorrow. Actually, I have two tomrrow, but they are in the same room so I don't know that that really counts...They are "Introduction to group dynamics, motivation and individual and group learning" and "Into to Module 1: Foundation for fundamental skills" So woo hoo! I get to start school finally!

Today I finally bought pots and pans (From Argos, a catalog shop, have I described it yet? I don't remember- anyhow- you look things up at a station with a catalog, write down the number you want, pay for it at the register, and then pick it up five minutes later when they bring it out to the front. Not so good for seeing things before you buy them, but lovely for cheapness and handiness.) And chatted with Lisa Dery from Student Services. I had missed the international students meeting for some reason or another, so I wanted to make sure that I was able to get the inforamtion that was give out then.

I had really just a lovely chat with Lisa and now have even more paper with which to clutter up my room! So that is fantastic. I also delivered the chocolate to the Professional Development office and made an inquiry about whether or not the school could help me pay for the rental of the bass that I'm borrowing from Malcolm. (of course it has a case, guys. I wouldn't have dared to a: take it on the tube or b: take it around rainy rainy London without one.)

So I'm beginning to get my stuff together (I've even started scoping out job websites, though not actually applying for anything yet. Maybe once classes start and I don't have a whole day in which I could either get important things done or stare at a wall saying "why on earth aren't you getting all of those important things done Casey?!" Because inevitably I choose the latter.)

And that is long enough for one entry.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The story of the bass

On Wednesday we had a bit of a break from induction activities, so I took that opportunity to go down to Surrey on the tube which is where Malcolm Healey's shop is. I got to take the bus too, because the tube doesn't go quite far enough, so that was good because it was my first opportunity for that.

The bus went right by Malcolm's shop which was good because that meant that I knew where to get off. I got there a little after two and was quickly let in and given a mug of tea. Malcolm showed me the bass that he had set aside for me and I tried it out for a bit to see if it was the same size. It was a good thing that I had given him the string length, because that means that the notes are in roughly the same place on the new instrument that they are on the one I have at home. So anyhow-I didn't have any problems with that instrument, so that is the one I've got back at Sundial now.

While I was at the shop though, people kept coming in, so there was an 87 year old bassist who still plays with local orchestras and a pair of friends who are building a mandolin and wanted some help seeing if their fingerboard plane was straight enough. Those friends then ended up trying out Malcolm's new musical saw too. It was a little ridiculous.

Malcolm gave me a ride back to the tube station (Morden, at the end of the Northern Line. I kept saying "Morden" to myself in the voice that they used in the Lord of the Rings movies when they say "Mordor" all dramatically.) And then I rode the tube all the way up to Moorgate with the bass. I perched on one of the seats at the every end of the car and tried to stay out of the way. The people who work at the stations were actually very nice about my having a giant instrument on the tube and helped me go through the luggage gates.

It is a bit awkward to carry- and I don't know quite what the dimensions are yet and it doesn't have shoulder strap- so Malcolm gave me a leather carry strap that hooks on to the end pin and around the neck of the bass. It is nice in theory, but I haven't quite got the hang of it yet. I'm trying very hard not to bang in to doors and ceilings and the like...

It's going to be £500 to lease it for the year, which I think is probably reasonable. I'm going to talk to Jose and Clare and see if perhaps I can get the Leadership office to help with the cost. I figure it is worth a try.

And now I have to rush off for yet another rehearsal...I'll let you know about last night's dinner in Highgate and the silent disco from two night's ago soon. (Do you like these cliff hangers? Okay, maybe not cliff, maybe short wall hangers...)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I don't even know where to start...

The last couple of days have been awfully full, so I'm going to start by answering questions that my Dad sent me. It's as good a place to start as any and it has the added benefit of making sure that he knows I recieved the email. Two birds, one stone and all that.

Housing Questions

The housing is fine mostly. I have quite a spacious room that I have done really just a stellar job of making as messy as possible with as little stuff as possible. The bass in the middle of the room helps with that. (A bass? What?! But that story comes later. Housing questions, remember?) I have a twin bed with springs that jab into my back at night, but does look lovely with my red and orange comforter and Grammy's quilt. There is a wardrobe that opens into an easy chair that is blocking the three drawer drawer thingy, a desk, a hollow footstool storage box, a small cabinet, and a sink. It is arranged such that nothing is totally usable because everything blocks something else. I bought a tape measurer though, and I have great hopes for being able to rearrange everything so that it works more smoothly. In the mean time I have put up posters and pictures and, as I said, have strewn my stuff everywhere. (is strewn even a word?) Oh, and I have a big window and my herb pots. It's nice really.

The flat is set up like this: the door opens into a short thin hallway with a bathroo and a shower on the left. The hallway then turns right and is long and thin. On the left is the kitchen followed by two single rooms and on the right is three single rooms and a bathroom that doesn't have a shower. The kitchen has five cabinets, five drawers, and five lower storage cabinets. (There are five people in the flat) There is a reasonably sized fridge, an oven that is missing some buttons but is apparently still usable (I haven't tried yet), a stove unit next to the sink and across the room from the oven, a sink, a round kitchen table with five chairs, an ironing board, two irons, and a large, unweildly vaccuum.


There is a computer lab in the main school building, I'm currently in the library tying up one of the computers there, and there is no access in the dormitory rooms. There is apparently wireless access in the "basement" which is where the pub is and the laundry room. I haven't explored this yet, so I don't know how it works. I also have not yet explored skype. Nor bought a mobile phone. Nor a phone card. I'm just trying to be as unaccesible as possible... Sorry about all that.


I hadn't expected this to be as different as it seems to be. In America you have a schedule- it is very usually the same every week and the school knows what your schedule is. Oftentimes they know where there are double bookings before you do. This is so not in any way the case here. I have a large, year long schedule of the main class times from the leadership program which, for the most part, follow Tuesday morning, Tuesday afternoon, Thursday evening, and Friday morning. But that simple ad schedule seems to be the exception rather than the norm. For instance, October 15-19? We'll be in Alderburgh. Which is totally neat and cool, but still. Also, projects come up at anytime and can be whenever. (How am I going to get a job?! I am very concerned about that. To be fair I haven't actually talked to anyone who can help me yet, and have instead just fretted.)

Then there are the electives...oh the electives. We need to take two over the course of the program- so two years. There is a list of about 20 offered electives, however many of these are very specific to certain departments and so if you're not in the department you can't take them. Then there are a few that are just wholly uninteresting. (Thanks, I've already done 5 years of theory, if I don't have to take it again- I won't.) That leaves about five electives- two of which are exactly what our program does and are led by Sean Gregory- the head of the Leadership Program and Professional Development Office. So cool, but what? Oh! Oh! And these classes aren't at specific times either, some are once a week but some are in intensive periods and none of them start until the fourth week of term. What?! You don't even start all your classes until half way through the first of three terms? This is bizzarre.

Meredith, the other American in my flat, and I had a good incredulity session about all this. It's kind of fascinating though.

As for my classes within the Leadership programme- they don't seem to vbe specific classes as such as much as times when we all meet and here are the things we'll normally do during those times. Things such as: Foundation in fundamental skills, creation and performance in community settings, creative ensemble, Voice, body and communication skills, percussion skills, and improvisation.

No idea what any of that is, but it sounds fun, doesn't it? When we had our first meeting and went around introducing ourselves I found myself sitting next to Sean and so ended up beginning the introductions. He said that I should tell my story of how I found the programme because it was a good one- so I explained that I had found this website that made no sense but was still totally intriguing. So I was totally confused and came to London. Where I was still confused, but really excited. Pretty much everyone echoed this sentiment ("I have NO idea what this programme is, but man, it's neat!") Clare said that someone had suggested a new tag line for Connect, which is the outreach and community branch of the professional development offiec. "Connect, the program that no one understands." Sean says he still can't quite explain what he does to his father.

OKay, and now I need to go back for more induction activities (I skipped lunch to write this for you!) I'll write more soon, I promise! Thought may I point out that specific questions help me on my way- because then I can answer those and have a jumping off point for my next entry. Love you all!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Telephone numbers

Why are telephone numbers in the UK so random in their divisions? The first 3 numbers are the city code, then there are 8 for your phone number- so why don't people just stick to a sensical 020 1234 5678 division? But noooo, sometimes it is all jumbled together 02012345678 and how do you remember all that? And then sometimes it is 0201 234 5678 which helps a bit, but 020 is the area code, it's easy to remember and doesn't need to be mucked up with one extra number! And then there is this one 02012 345678. Do you see how my original format is the easiest to remember and to look at when dialing? So simple! So useful! So not standard!

And that is my rant for today.

I am in the computer lab up on the second floor (3rd if we're speaking 'merican here.) and I am currently surrounded by people I don't know. Hopefully that will begin to be remedied soon.

In any case I am all officially enrolled and will be able to pick up my Student ID card on Wednesday morning. (My hair was a bit too big for the photo, so some of it got cropped off...) I've run into four other people from the program- three of whom were in the workshop with me. Nicholas- the Mexican guitarist who is also staying at Sundial Court, Heather- the American cellist who is part of the CIM cello posse, Jo- the tuba player from London that I'm fairly certain I've written about before (I liked her a lot), and Jo's friend Emma whom I've just met and am not sure about what she plays. We have our department meeting tomorrow.

All the new students were crowded into the Music Hall which is apparently a performance space, but is quite small and filled with instruments so that it looks like a rather full rehearsal space (I'm sure it gets used for rehearsals too, but this is where the performances are? JVS (which was a gym!) looked vaguely more professional than this. I didn't realize I was getting spoiled with Friedberg at Peabody.)There were various speeches (take advantage of everything! Know why you want to be a musician! Blah Blah.)

There were giant queues everywhere, but I managed to get through fairly quickly and spent some more time being thankful for how helpful Polly and Jennifer Kay in the Registry office are.

It is cold and dreary, so I think I will now finish this particular entry and go back to my flat to bundle up a bit before going grocery shopping.